Ten Premiership clubs support plans for accelerated winter break

Clubs are considering starting the break early after a decision to limit fans.

Ten Premiership clubs support plans for accelerated winter break SNS Group

David Martindale called for player welfare as well as fan concerns to be taken into account after confirming Livingston were among 10 out of 12 clubs who are in favour of starting the cinch Premiership winter break early.

Clubs have been in discussions after the Scottish Government imposed a limit of 500 spectators on upcoming sporting events for up to three weeks from Boxing Day, in a bid to help slow the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

A statement from Motherwell said a decision on whether to proceed with the post-Christmas fixture list was expected to be made by the Scottish Professional Football League board on Wednesday.

Martindale – who called last week for Scottish football to implement an immediate two-week circuit-breaker – told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Livingston were “100 per cent” looking for games to be postponed.

“Most clubs, I think it’s 10 out of 12 clubs, would rather postpone these fixtures so we can play them with fans back in stadiums at a later date,” he added.

“I can understand both sides of the story to be honest because there’s no way of knowing in three or four weeks’ time if we are going to be in the same situation.

“I think it should come down to the clubs but ultimately we’ve got commercial contracts and there’s commercial obligations so I imagine there’s a lot more stakeholders than just the football clubs that are going to be able to make this decision.

“I think we’ve got to try and explore a way of postponing these fixtures and playing them at a later date when fans are allowed back into the stadium.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of my players, I spoke to players at other clubs and everybody is kind of of the same opinion that they would rather not play the fixture than play it in front of 500 fans, but that’s just looking at it from a fan point of view.

“You’ve also got to look at it from a player welfare point of view and stopping the spread of Omicron.”

St Johnstone confirmed on Wednesday that they backed plans for an accelerated winter break after Celtic, Hibernian and Motherwell gave their public backing to the idea on Tuesday.

Maximum crowd levels of 500 will undermine the allure of the festive schedule, which includes derbies in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee.

The cinch Premiership is due to shut down for three weeks following the clash between Hibernian and Hearts on January 3 with top-flight teams returning to Scottish Cup action in the fourth weekend of the year.

Talks on an accelerated winter break would have to include broadcaster Sky Sports, while the SPFL needs to find wriggle room in an already-crowded fixture schedule if the festive games are postponed.

However, Motherwell chief executive Alan Burrows claimed that Sky’s input was not pivotal.

“We have games on Sky that are regularly postponed,” Burrows told BBC Radio Scotland.

“Clubs need to recognise Sky’s role in this. My understanding is that the Sky contract is for x number of games that they get to pick based on the parameters that exist within the contract. But there isn’t anything that says x game have to be played on x date.”

With clubs such as Dundee United, St Mirren and St Johnstone undergoing significant Covid-related disruption to their playing squads, and the potential for further issues in the coming days and weeks, postponements of some December and New Year games might be taken out of the SPFL’s hands.

Lower-league outfits have less room for manoeuvre given they have no winter break planned.

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